Friday, February 01, 2008

Online Schooling for the K-12 Set

It's not homeschooling, it's online schooling. And it's increasingly being funded as part of the U.S. public school system.

This hasn't gotten onto my radar before -- I'm not sure if there are any state-funded online programs in Massachusetts. Or maybe it's just that my kids haven't gotten to that age yet.

See the article in the New York Times: Online Schooling Grows, Setting Off a Debate

Despite enthusiastic support from parents, the schools have met with opposition from some educators, who say elementary students may be too young for Internet learning, and from teachers, unions and school boards, partly because they divert state payments from the online student’s home district.
What do you think? Is this the inevitable wave of the future for U.S. education?


christytucker said...

I've corresponded a bit with a woman who is currently a teacher but wants to move into instructional design, specifically for K-12. As I recall, she has two kids in high school who are taking online courses, and that's what got her interested in ID and e-learning.

Within higher ed, I'm sure we'll continue to see growth in online, but it is starting to plateau a bit. The K-12 market is pretty wide open though, so there's lots of opportunities for rapid growth there. In that respect, I do think it's inevitable--the business opportunity is too great to not attract people.

Stephen Downes commented earlier this week that we really need all kinds of different schools because different students need different things. I like the idea of online being an option for K-12 students, even if it isn't the right thing for everyone.

Online K-12 classes have great possibilities for rural schools to offer electives and AP classes that they wouldn't otherwise be able to fill. Even some bigger schools like my high school (around 1500 students) are using online courses for supplemental studies. It ends up being more of a hybrid there; most of the classes are face to face, but a few online courses are taken to allow specialization.

Cathy Moore said...

10 years ago I cut my elearning teeth in the K12 market, working on projects for two big US providers. All the projects provided standalone, asynchronous lessons.

The less-fascinating lessons were mostly HTML text and static images. The students had slightly interactive online assignments that a human teacher graded.

The more fun lessons were completely original Flash, highly interactive, with humor not only allowed but encouraged.

In both modes, the lessons were designed to meet very specific academic standards. Unlike some corporate courses, the kids' lessons were short, highly focused, tightly structured, and, interestingly, not read aloud to the kids.

Basically, I think the corporate elearning market could learn a thing or two from the K12 market. I think I feel a blog post coming on.

Michele said...

I sure hope it's the future! I'm with Stephen that we need different kinds of learning options for different kids and different needs. My daughter will be taking driver's ed online this semester, and her older sister is doing an independent study in college that consists of reading a bunch of books and blogging about them, so I see space for all kinds of e-learning to take place if we can just get more flexible and willing to see the possibilities.

Cammy Bean said...

I've been aware, certainly, of online resources to help teachers and home schoolers. I just hadn't realized that this had moved into the realm of full curriculum programs for K-12.

Of course, the direction makes perfect sense and does seem inevitable at this stage.

Cathy -- looking forward to that post!

Semseo said...

What do you think? Is this the inevitable wave of the future for U.S. education? Yes and No ;)I think online courses in high school are great, but if i had to study from home i would miss a lot of social components.